By Thomas Pawlenko, GM
On October 11, the Atlanta Journal Constitution ran an article by Lauren Davidson that quoted a “nutrition specialist” with a large medical company in part, not to buy “everything on your grocery list at a high-end natural foods store when some items can be found cheaper elsewhere”. The implication was that natural foods stores are somehow by default more expensive than other sources of these products. Nothing could be further from the truth.
While some stores may indeed have higher prices for some products, the comparisons done by product type do not back Ms. Davidson’s conclusion. In fact, she quotes a nutritionist later in the article who says she does not buy organic or even pesticide free, all the time. As she states, “In terms of overall health, if I am on a budget, I pick my battles”.
Those of us in the Natural Foods and Organic Foods industry are the most sensitive to the price point of our products. We realize that Organic products will cost more than non-Organic/Conventional products. However, there are legitimate reasons for that and there are many benefits to eating Organic and pesticide free, all of which have been documented for decades. Some are obvious – chemicals and poisons are eliminated from the food you eat, the farm soils are healthier and provide a more nutrient rich environment for the crops, and the resistance of pests to the chemical pesticides is reduced. Others are more long-term – Less health problems from the ingestion of pesticide residues and chemical fertilizers means less medical costs later in life, reduced incidences of food allergies and sensitivities, and less medicines to deal with health problems.
The Rodale Institute has done a 30 year side-by-side study comparing Organic farming to conventional farming. Their conclusions included the following 6 findings:
1) Organic yields match conventional yields.
2) Organic outperforms conventional in years of drought.
3) Organic farming systems build rather than deplete soil organic matter, making it a more sustainable system
4) Organic farming uses 45% less energy and is more efficient.
5) Conventional systems product 40% more greenhouse gases.
6) Organic farming is more profitable than conventional farming.
There were more conclusions to their study and they can be seen at rodaleinstitute.org/fst30years . These findings completely overturn the opinions of Ms. Davidson’s “experts” concerning the priority of Organic and pesticide free foods. In fact, being “on a budget” (which really everyone is), is even more reason to eat the best foods available and not to “pick my battles” as one of her experts suggest. Eating better means living healthier and that should be our primary concern for our families and ourselves.
She touts both Trader Joe’s and Wal-Mart as great sources of quality, inexpensive products and produce. While they both may occasionally be lower priced on some items, most of their organic products and produce are much higher than many other stores and sometimes even higher than the so called “high end Natural Foods stores”.
The one line in the story that made absolutely good sense was her quote of her nutritionist source who said, “It’s really just keeping an eye out for your basic staples at different stores”. The only caveat to that would be that if you have chosen to eat organic and pesticide free then choose a good, reliable, trustworthy Natural Foods store that has a knowledgeable staff and quality products over the mega supermarkets that try to do Organic as a sideline. In the long run, you will live healthier and have a fatter wallet.
Thomas Pawlenko, GM
Sevananda Natural Foods Market